Customer service should not be limited to answering calls and then trying to solve problems. The best way would still be the face-to-face. Image for ilustrative purposes. Image Credit: Gulf News

Like many other issues, the falling standards of customer service are a concern for all. These days quality customer service is indeed a rare phenomenon that we experience.

It is not just the premium category that needs focus; even routine customer service is in the doldrums. If I look at the global average of the various customer satisfaction surveys, more than four out of ten customers are unhappy with the service on offer. It is attention - or its details - and requisite passion that is missing.

Customer’s unease with service inconstancies is putting proponents on the backfoot. Organizations are at the crossroads on how to fix its missing components.

Human resources continue to be the key driver, but being a people-centric role, it has challenges that are impacting standards. With the advent of new technologies, specific interfaces are automated - but a lot is needed to be done to leverage its full impact.

Scaling up the experience

For seamless customer service, it is not only individual performances that matter, it requires compatible teamwork and an apt infrastructure. For outstanding customer experience, specific details are a must.

For exceptional customer service, the personnel need to have a set of definitive personality traits. These are patience, effective communication, calm, restraint, and problem-solving skills. Besides, they also require apt skills needed for their role.

To reinforce the foundations of a great customer organization, personnel search and the onboarding process is one of the prerequisites to focus on. This preparedness helps to build an excellent customer-centric team, which ensures all those onboarded have the requisite traits.

These skills are the basics that I assume to have been acquired by people through early life influences, such as their upbringing and guidance. For instance, being positive is a character trait that is usually embedded as a behaviour. It is not always easy to smile or respond positively, especially in a crisis or when faced with constraints.

It’s in the individual’s wiring

The individual requires basic chemistry and a positive mindset. We all know that for vibrant customer service, patience is the core virtue. I believe a great customer experience needs a natural character that we call “made to fit” for the purpose. It is thus a must for customer-facing people to know how to handle customer emotions with a measured response, especially in case of any erratic behaviour from the customer.

The front-office and all other customer-facing personnel play a pivotal role in the running of any business, but for them to perform, other departments too have to synchronize their acts. How often has excellent customer service by an individual been wasted if the team fails to perform.

At times, specific infrastructure issues or lack of teamwork are a challenge for customer service professionals. They then have to rise above these to perform to their best.

For instance, in the hotel industry, without good housekeeping and other back-office support, even an excellent customer service will go in vain. If these departments trail in their work, customer service will have to bear the brunt. Synchronization between various service lines and teams matters for seamless service.

An appropriate infrastructure also matters as aging assets can derail the process. However, a competent customer service agent or front-office team can step in to ease the situation. But beyond a point, all departments need to perform... if not excel.

- Tariq Chauhan is Group CEO at EFS Facilities Services Group.